Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
Debbie Caldwell talks Susan, Charlie, and Braden Powell in Salt Lake County Sunday, Feb. 5, 2012. Caldwell runs a child care business. Josh Powell and his two sons were killed in an explosion in Washington.

SALT LAKE CITY — A bill that seeks to protect children in cases where one parent is the primary suspect in the death of the other unanimously passed the Utah House on Wednesday and now heads to the governor for his signature.

SB173 would allow those involved in such situations to make their case to a juvenile district court judge to have children temporarily removed from the home of a parent who is the primary suspect for murdering another parent of the children.

The bill was amended to require the parent be the primary suspect instead of simply a suspect, according to the bill's House sponsor, Rep. Craig Hall, R-West Valley City.

Hall said the bill has been discussed, vetted and narrowed to "thread the needle between protecting parental rights and the rights of children."

Children wouldn't be removed hastily, as similar legislation in Washington state prompted by the Josh Powell case aimed to do last year.

Powell was suspected of killing his wife, Susan Cox Powell, in Utah, but maintained partial custody of his two sons. He murdered them before killing himself when the children went to his home for a supervised visit.

Under the bill, the children would be removed temporarily from the situation until the criminal process is complete, Hall said.

"I believe this is a good bill that protects children and takes into consideration this delicate balance," he said.

— Madeleine Brown